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What If?

Josie Burck

Self Portraiture, 2022

“What If?” is self-portraiture that explores my childhood obsessions with specific celebrities like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, Youtube personalities like Tana Mongeau and Trisha Paytas, and Pamela Anderson. Like many young women, I was modeling my gender presentation in conversation with these images, and more specifically began imagining myself as them. They were role models of sorts in terms of their agency and sex appeal, which both seemed to be qualities that were tightly linked. Perhaps if I looked like them I would find myself leading that kind of life and I would be able to escape the dullness of high school and beyond. In this work I taught myself to use prosthetics and makeup to evoke a completely different character than my own, inspired by the work of artists like Cindy Sherman and Nadia Lee Cohen. I hoped to not simply critique celebrity culture and my obsessions with glamor and beauty, but to imagine a more complicated relationship that includes critique and also play. The characters look both flawed and distorted, but gaze at us full of confidence, refusing to be dismissed as abject.